Gadgets and Gizmos Keeping Parents Connected
How technology can help you be a better parent.
If it takes a village to raise a child, let's hope it comes equipped with Wi-Fi. Today's parents have a multitude of technological choices to help them be better parents, stay connected to their kids, and generally give them peace of mind. Here are some of our favorite gadgets and gizmos to get you through every age and stage, and even some that aid in senior care:
Baby Goes High-Tech
Between 3 a.m. feedings and 9 a.m. meetings, it can be tough to remember all the details about your baby's schedule. Luckily, there are a few new electronic devices that keep track of all your baby's feedings, diapers changes, and nap times, making it easier to hand off care to another caretaker. Just like any good assistant, the Onaroo Personal Baby Assistant ($49.95) is a handheld device that not only records all the important details (down to the consistency of every poop), but also offers you charts and weekly reports so that you can track trends and print records for pediatrician visits. If you want something similar but with fewer bells and whistles, the Itzbeen Baby Care Timer ($24.50) has four timers to record feedings, sleeping, diaper changes and medication. You can get similar features from a host of iPhone apps, including Total Baby ($4.99) and Baby Brain ($4.99). But since you're not parting with your phone, you lose the ability to easily share the information with other caregivers, although Baby Brain lets you share the information via e-mail.
For the nervous parent who wishes that babies came with manuals, there's a host of devices to guide you, including the Why Cry Baby Crying Analyzer ($38.50). It interprets your baby's cries to let you know your child is hungry, sleepy, stressed, annoyed, or bored. The only downside is that you need to let the baby cry for a bit for the analyzer to get an accurate reading -- torture for any new parent who can't stand to hear so much as a whimper before racing to pick up the baby. Then there's BebeSounds Remote Fever Monitor/Thermometer ($60), a must-have for any parent who has ever spent a sleepless night worrying about a sick child. It clips onto a diaper or pajama bottoms and monitors your child's fever throughout the night, sounding an alarm when the fever reaches a pre-set level chosen by the parents.
Once you've moved on to the sleep training stage, you can buy the 4Moms Goodnight Sleep Trainer ($29.95) -- another handheld device that tracks your child's sleep schedule. You hit the button when your child wakes up crying, and it will let you know when it's time to go in for a quick comfort visit. To help your child sleep in a noisy environment -- or to block out the sounds of the crying as you sleep train -- download the iPhone app White Noise ($.99). Once sleep is finally achieved, you can keep an ear out for your child with the Babyphone app ($3.99), which turns your cell phone into a baby monitor. When the sound in the room reaches a certain, adjustable level, the cell calls another phone -- presumably the house phone or another cell phone - to alert you that the child is awake.
Parents of teenagers don't sleep for a whole different set of reasons, not the least of which is the worry that comes from handing your kids the keys to the car. If your teen has an Android or Blackberry phone, you can download the SMS Replier ($20), which automatically replies to text messages to let the sender know your teen is driving and will respond later. Lest your teen worry that it's not cool, they can customize replies to different phone numbers.
Keeping Check on Your Parents and Grandparents
And finally, for those who have the added worry of elderly parents living alone, there is a range of companies that will equip a house with electronic sensors or cameras to let you know when a parent wakes up or goes to sleep, takes their medication, or eats a meal. The information is sent to adult children online or through email or text messages. The services don't come cheap -- they can cost in the thousands to install and run -- but that's still a fraction of the cost of a retirement home. Some companies, like Grand Care Systems, have interactive features that let you send pictures or videos to your parents' television. Others, such as MedMinder ($19.99 per month), address just one concern (in this case, that elderly parents remember to take their pills). Alerts remind elderly patients to take their medication, while also communicating to others if the medicine isn't taken, or is taken incorrectly.
Ultimately, how much technology you want to introduce into your life is up to you. But remember, sometimes the best parenting comes from unplugging.